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Fifteen Were Up to Parker’s 48-Hour Challenge

Tue, 09/26/2023 - 11:21
Despite the lack of much sleep in the preceding 48 hours, the 15 intrepid 4x4x48ers were all smiles after their feat.
Ben Parker

Considering that they’d just run 48 miles over the course of 48 hours, with cat naps in between four-mile jogs, the crew enjoying a barbecue Sunday afternoon at Bret Parker’s house in Noyac looked to be, if not utterly euphoric, in good shape.

“We’ll look different in a few hours,” quipped Parker, who had exceeded his goal of raising $125,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s disease research work by more than $20,000 through this taxing two-day event.

The head of New York City’s bar association, Parker, 55, was diagnosed with the as-yet-incurable disease early on, when he was 38. Self-described as “semi-athletic” before he was diagnosed, and knowing that exercise ameliorates the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s, he began to seriously challenge himself athletically, and to raise money for the actor Michael J. Fox’s foundation, through “epic” events. This week’s was the 11th such sporting test that he — in the company of 14 others in this case — has undergone. As a result, Parker has become the first person to have raised more than $1 million for the foundation.

“I try to do one big thing a year. . . . I did the Mighty Hamptons triathlon about seven or eight years ago, though I don’t swim very well,” he said at his house last Thursday, before the 4x4x48 challenge, named after its formulator, David Goggins, a former Navy SEAL. “I fell into a pool as a kid; I still can’t dive. The swim was terrifying for me. I doggy-paddled, floated on my back, crawled some. . . . It was truly terrifying.”

When told that Stu Mittleman, an early ultra competitor, had literally crawled along the Noyac Bay bottom at Long Beach in one of the early Mighty Hamptons triathlons, Parker said he could relate. “My wife, Katharine, did it with me, but she swam twice as quickly. . . . No, she didn’t wait for me after the swim, but she waited for me at the end of the race.”

“My wife and I and one of our sons” — the Parkers have two, Matt, 25, and Ben, 23 — “and David rode bikes from here out to the Montauk Lighthouse and back. I did that as a fund-raiser. It’s a pretty good trek, 55 miles. It was beautiful. But not terrifying.”

In talking about such feats, he did not mean to imply, Parker said, that 5Ks and the like were nugatory. “I call what I do ‘epic,’ but for some running a 5K is a big challenge. For some people a 3K is epic. I say do whatever is epic for you.”

Parker has also skydived at the Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley — “the easiest thing I’ve done, I didn’t have to train” — run the New York marathon “a bunch of times,” as well as marathons in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., and, with seven of those who did the 4x4x48 with him here Friday and Saturday, run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, beginning in Antarctica.

His 4x4x48 cohort included Cara Nelson, who coaches East Hampton High’s varsity girls soccer team (and teaches social studies at the middle school), David Samson (his “best friend for over 40 years”), Caleb Samson, Deb Carneol, Stephanie Hoppe, Matt Hoppe, Will Manso, Jane Marr, Mitch Moser, Ricky Sherlock, Michael Hill, Priscila Fonseca, Judy Sanchez, and her 11-year-old daughter, Skye, who, when asked if she was feeling euphoric, replied that she was feeling tired.

Nelson, Samson, Carneol, Moser, Hill, and Judy Sanchez did the World Marathon Challenge with Parker in 2018.

“Many others, including most of the girls on my team, ran one or two segments, most of which began here at Bret’s house,” said Nelson. “We started at 10 a.m. Friday and finished at 10 a.m. today. My dad ran a segment and my mom oversaw the food and water station when we did the two segments at Long Beach Saturday morning.”

The wretched weather had made the 4x4x48 all the more challenging, she added. “It was not only physically taxing, but mentally taxing to think about the conditions. The second day was the worst I’ve ever run in with the rain and the wind.”

Asked what he thought of his dad, Matt said, “He’s pretty amazing . . . he continues to persevere . . . he’s got chutzpah. Plus, he’s very funny.”

“I’ve tried not to let Parkinson’s interfere with my life,” Parker said last Thursday. “There are times when things are not as easy, but, for the most part, I continue to do the things that I did. . . . There’s no cure yet, but if we raise enough money to fund the research, maybe there will be.”

Donations can be made online at

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Bret Parker is the head of the New York City Bar Association, not New York State’s. 


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